By Julie Montanaro
August 15, 2014
Tonight a plane carrying the body of a fallen U.S. soldier will touch down at the Tallahassee Regional Airport.
The remains of Staff Sergeant Gerald Atkinson will finally be coming home nearly 70 years after his plane was shot down during World War two.
Gerald Von Atkinson enlisted when he was just 19.
The Chattahoochee High School sports star would fly 22 missions with the U.S. Army Air Corps before his B17G bomber was shot down just outside of Berlin, Germany in April 1945.
"Messersmiths ... fighter jets ... the Germans attacked and they hit between the fourth and fifth engines and the plane started down and it caught fire and exploded in the air," sister-in-law Bunky Atkinson said.
Bunky Atkinson was married to Gerald's younger brother. They named their daughter after him and after her husband passed away a few years ago she wrote the Army a letter to try to find out what happened to the young airman.
"It just seemed that in this age when we can put a man on the moon, we could find one little ol' soldier," Bunky Atkinson said.
Earlier this year thanks to DNA, the U.S. Army was able to positively identify the remains of Gerald Atkinson. His family would learn that Atkinson's plane plunged into a lake near Oranienburg, Germany and his body eventually floated to the surface.
Family members say his unidentified remains were buried at a local cemetery initially and were later sent to Belgium, France and ultimately to Hawaii where the POW/MIA Accounting Command helps to identify remains and return them to their families.
Gerald von Atkinson - who earned a Purple heart, a World War Two victory medal and more - will return home and be buried Saturday with full military honors. He’ll be buried in Mount Pleasant cemetery next to his parents and three siblings.
“It’s a miracle, it really is,” Bunky Atkinson said. "It will be good tomorrow when I can tell his mama, ‘We brought your boy home.’ The headstone is there and all of his family's there waiting for him."
We're planning to be on the tarmac tonight when the plane carrying Atkinson's remains lands in Tallahassee.
We hope to share that with you tonight at 11.